Photographs by Laurie @ Horizons Photography

June 12, 2017

opened the door and light came in...

Took a pie to his face at the carnival yesterday
Sometimes the answer is in the knowing. You wander around looking for a door in a dark hallway and keep stumbling into walls, hands in front of your face, you get tired, frustrated, scared, and usually bruised. Then, someone tells you, 'You are in a dark hallway' and suddenly you know that if you just walk straight ahead you will come to the door and find your way out. It's still dark, your hands are still in front of your face but you walk straight, feeling a little lower for the door handle and before you know it, you find the knob, turn, and light falls through the open door filling all the shadows and taking any fear away with it.

When the doctor told us that Josh was dealing with a depression it was like someone came along and whispered the answer in my ear, it was still dark and scary but I knew the path we were on and somehow that gave us the direction that we needed to take in order to help our son. The changes that have occurred have been significant. Last week the door opened and sunlight poured into that hall, gone are the shadows and darkness, there is so much light ahead.

Let me share what changed.

I won't lie to you when I heard the doctor tell me what was wrong I felt a lot of powerful emotions. I was scared, I was exhausted by what seemed like an insurmountable situation. I was so incredibly sad for Josh, and as a mother, I felt like I had somehow failed him. There were a number of things going on that has resulted in what is being called a 'circumstantial depression'. There was the new realization that his body has limits, and a deep sadness that came with that realization as he is navigating what that means for him now and in the life that he has planned out for himself. There were the kids at school who were being mean to him due to his limitations, tiredness, and honestly his anger at the feelings he was struggling with. Then there is the part where I come in. As a result of the stroke, Josh has ADHD (a rare kind that initiates in the central temporal lobe of his brain). He is on medication to help him focus and it has changed his life and ours as a result; however, it is a tricky medication because when the dose is wrong it messes with his seizure meds and he is at risk for break through seizures. I have noticed for a while now that his focus hasn't been the same as usual for a few months but if I am honest I didn't want to mess with his doses since I am terrified of him having more seizures and it took us so long to get the meds all sorted out for safe levels. I lowered his sugar intake drastically (much to his horror) and stopped all chocolate after lunch (again, this is a totally unwelcome change for Josh). The attention didn't get better and in fact, it was much worse. We would ask Josh to do the simplest things and it wouldn't get done, going anywhere with him was an exercise in frustration because he was more often than not in his own little world and would wander off, bump into people, or just generally drive us crazy with his total lack of focus in whatever activity we were doing. Tim, Kaleb and I were constantly annoyed and frustrated and I feel like we must have said 'Josh, pay attention' at least a thousand times a day. Josh's teacher also began having trouble getting him to accomplish his tasks at school which meant that at the end of the day when the kids were all done and playing games at their desks Josh was forced to continue his school work. All these things, all this negativity were his constant companions since January at least. It is no wonder that he internalized it all and began to slide a slippery slope into childhood depression. For my part I felt like the worst kind of Mom, and I had no idea how to make things better for him apart from a med change and a patience check every time I had to repeat instructions.

I began by saying sorry. That was the easy part; I sat him on my lap and I told him I was so desperately sorry for the part I played in the negative things in his life. His simple and easy forgiveness was a humbling experience. He seemed happier to know that I was promising to change, it was enough to know that I acknowledged his sadness. Then we talked. A LOT. We talked about the kids at school, we talked about praying for them and forgiving them, we talked about his limitations and how to engage them when he was feeling frustrated. It didn't change overnight and I literally prayed every time his name came to my mind. It was a simple prayer "I don't know how to help him, I can't do this for him but I know you love him so I need you to step in and do something for him". I was expecting God to give him a new friend, or change the hearts of the kids around him... but I wasn't expecting the answer I got.

I had a long talk with Josh one night about what happens at school and realized that it was really the afternoon recess that he struggled with the most since by then he was very tired and unable to keep up. We talked about not needing to play with the kids he knew, that he would be able to play with the kids who looked like they were doing something he would enjoy, or he could look around for a kid who was alone and ask that child if he wanted to play. Then we had a chat about how everyone has limits. Some people have a natural ability to do things like sports while others have a natural ability to do art or music or were naturally gifted in academics. We discussed that there were three main types of things in life.

1) There are some things that you will never be able to do. Sometimes you have NO SKILL or TALENT do something (and honestly you usually don't like doing that anyway so it doesn't matter) I for example can NOT do math. I hear a number and my brain freezes. No lie.

2) There are things that you are not naturally good at but you enjoy it. These are things that you need to work for, practice at, struggle with. I shared with him a story I once heard Ed Sheeran share about his music ability. He used to suck at it (really, he shared a recording of himself singing and it did suck) but he wanted it badly enough that he worked hard to make it happen and seriously, look at him now?!

3) There are some things that you have a gift in, things that come easily and readily for you, things that you do that some people can't.

I told Josh that while he was not naturally gifted at sports, he was good enough that if he practiced at what he enjoyed (baseball and a soccer goalie) he would become good, and only get better the more practice he put into it. Then I told him what I have known for a long time. He is naturally gifted at school. He's very smart, his teacher called him a math whiz and he's already ahead of his grade in math. He is also now at grade level in reading despite all therapists telling me that it would take him years to catch up because of the language center of his brain being affected by the stroke. By the time our chat was over I felt I had been lecturing him and he probably didn't hear most of what I had said... but the power to fix him was intoxicating and wanting to 'talk the problem better' was my way of making it go away. I finally said good night to him, gave him a kiss and silently prayed again that God would step in and do something for Josh.

The Saturday before last Tim and I had Josh to ourselves, we had errands to run so we took him with us and Josh was bored so he picked up Kaper's book which was left in the car and he was reading it. As we walked through the Man Depot and Sobey's Josh trudged along behind me... READING. I didn't make a big deal about it, in fact I didn't say much at all because I didn't want him to stop doing it. It was such a pleasure to see him actually choosing to read. When I tucked him into bed on Sunday night he mentioned a book that he had seen at school that he was hoping he would be able to get the next day, again I just nodded and smiled and didn't get too extreme afraid that it would put him off.

This is where I learned (again) that God answers prayers in ways that are best, not the way we may think is best, but what he KNOWS is best.

On Monday Josh came off the school bus holding up his new find, the first book in the Amulet series, he was beaming from ear to ear. His day, he said, had been fantastic. When I asked what made it fantastic he simply pointed to his borrowed book. He ran off to play and I went to make dinner. That night I had to ask him four times to turn out the light because he just couldn't put the book down. The next morning Josh told Tim 'this book has changed my life' and let me tell you something. It really has.

He has taken control back on the play ground. In the afternoon when he knows he's too tired to play he takes his book to a tree near the back of the school ground. A tree that he used to call his 'sad tree' and he sits there and reads. He no longer feels left out of that recess because of his limitations, he no longer worries about the kids telling him he can't play with them because when he's most tired he is making the empowered choice to not want to play with them. Since September Josh's Grandma has been keeping a tally of books that he has read, telling him that when he gets to 10 'proper size' books he will get $25. As of last week he was sitting at three books. Today the tally sits at 8 books. He did something last week I never thought I would see him do, he used his lego money to buy two books in the series, and thanks to some very generous people he is now the proud of owner of the entire Amulet series (book two is still enroute).

Yesterday I watched Josh from a distance while we were celebrating Little T's 175th. I was taking photos of the event so I saw him through the eyes of a photographer and not just his Mum. What I saw was a different child from the one living in our home for the last few months. He's engaged, where he was withdrawn, he's energized, where was exhasted, he's focused (in part due to med increase) and he smile was brighter than the hot sun we got to enjoy yesterday.

Sometimes the answer is in the knowing; knowing what the problem is that needs to be faced. Knowing the needs that need to be met. Knowing the probelm that needs to prayed for and the times when you need to hold, love, and nurture the problem; but sometimes God has a much better idea for how to work out a problem than we do and we need to step back and let him work. Josh will still have to learn to live with his limitations, he will still have to deal with his feelings, there is still work do but I was reminded this week of a few things, he is loved beyond measure by the God who created him and has a much bigger plan for him, by a God who knows how to help when I can't, and who is building him into a man who is ready for the future that He has in store for him. Knowing that, sometimes it's okay for me to step back and let God figure it out when I just can't. It's not my job to fix every problem the boys find themselves facing; it's my job to teach them to turn to God, and it's my job to pray for them daily, to seek his wisdom and guidence when it comes to the choices we make regarding them.

I also learned... I don't altogether suck at this mothering thing. Apparently I can't fix everything but I can hold them and love them, and sometimes that is all I am needed for. God has the rest.